These days, you should think about how a product or service you’re buying ensures it offers some minimum quality guarantees. For example, when choosing a language service provider (LSP), it’s important to remember that quality covers a number of areas, from the relationship that the LSP builds with its customers, to the reliability of its processes for selecting the language professionals who work on its projects. As well as the other more specific elements of service, such as the correct use of terminology, traceability in management processes and security of the information it handles. All of these factors help ensure that quality, as well as the satisfaction of its customers, is high.
How can you objectively evaluate all of this? That is where ISO quality standards come in — they objectively and independently certify that a company complies with the applicable regulations, and that the company follows a series of processes that are deemed to be optimal for ensuring that the product or service meets the customer’s expectations. Furthermore, the fact that ISO certification is audited annually provides further assurance that the supplier is following the due quality controls and processes, and is continually striving to improve customer satisfaction. But let’s look at it step by step.
What is a quality standard? The history of ISO
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) was founded with the aim of answering a fundamental question: “what’s the best way of doing this?”
ISO began in London, in 1944, through the merger of two national agencies for the creation of standards — ISA (International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations) and UNSCC (United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee). ISO has become the leading international standard-setting body. It comprises members from 162 countries and 3,368 technical organizations, who are responsible for drafting the ISO standards. Since it was founded, more than 17,500 ISO standards have been written, which encompass almost every area in manufacturing and technology, as well as the services sector.
The extent to which ISO standards have been implemented around the world can be seen in the organization’s annual surveys, which reveal the ever-increasing number of organizations that opt for certification.
When, how, and by whom is an ISO standard developed?
ISO does not decide when to develop a new standard, but rather it responds to a request from industry or other stakeholders, such as consumer groups. Typically, an industry sector or group communicates the need for a standard to its national member, who then contacts ISO. The next step is to appoint a project leader, who presents the proposal for the standard, via the Secretariat, to the other member countries of the relevant technical committee or subcommittee. The committee members vote whether or not to proceed with the proposal. If the proposal is approved, each country appoints a series of experts to monitor the development of the standard and thus ensure it meets the needs of the market and that it can be applied internationally. All decisions have to be reached by consensus.
There are six phases to the development process, during which the appointed experts meet to debate and approve the content: Proposal, Preparation, Committee, Consultation, Approval and Publication. Each technical committee consists of a number of members who are responsible for developing the standards. The committee appoints a panel of experts for each specific subject area, and this panel is responsible for monitoring the development of each of the standards. Consumer associations, academic institutions, NGOs and governments also collaborate in developing the standards. The experts involved in developing them do so on a voluntary and unpaid basis and tend to be independent professionals or representatives from organizations in the relevant industry, the civil service, professional organizations, research centers or universities, allowing for the optimal representation and coverage of all the interests of the sector.
Certification in the translation and interpreting industry
The technical committee responsible for drafting the standards that apply to the translation and interpreting industry is TC 37 (technical committee in charge of terminology and other language and content resources), which was created in 1947. This technical committee aims to standardize the principles. methods, and applications related to terminology and other language resources, in the context of multilingual communications and diversity, and has already published more than 51 standards, including:
ISO/TS 11669: 2012 (Translation projects — General guidance)
ISO 13611: 2014 (Interpreting — Guidelines for community interpreting
ISO 17100: 2015 (Translation services — Requirements for translation services)
ISO 20109: 2016 (Simultaneous interpreting — Equipment — Requirements)
ISO 2603: 2016 (Simultaneous interpreting — Permanent booths — Requirements)
ISO 4043: 2016 (Simultaneous interpreting — Mobile booths — Requirements)
ISO 18587: 2017 (Translation services — Post-editing of machine translation output)
(Developed by CPSL).
There are ten standards under development for the sector, including:
ISO/FDIS 18841 (Interpreting services — General requirements and recommendations)
ISO/AWI 21999 (Translation quality assurance and assessment — Models and metrics)
The most popular quality standards with which LSPs must comply in order to guarantee the quality of their products and services are ISO 17100, ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 (for medical devices only).
So, when choosing a partner for multilingual projects, in addition to the general ISO 9001 certification, it is important to check for ISO 17100, which is specific to the translation sector, and ISO 13485 for localization specifically related to the manufacture of medical devices.
- The general standard ISO 9001 sets out the criteria for a quality management system (QMS), and applies to all fields of activity. Companies acquire this certification to demonstrate their commitment and ability to provide, products and services that consistently meet the needs and expectations of their customers.
- The ISO 17100 standard applies specifically to translation services and, in 2015, it replaced the European standard UNE-EN 15038. The provisions of this standard establish the competencies and qualifications that translators, revisers and other professionals working in this fields must have. It also establishes the basic principles of the framework for collaboration between organizations, providers, and customers in such a way as to ensure the optimum quality of both the product (translation) and the service, and the relationship between stakeholders.
- Depending on the specializations of the LSP, it is also important to check for ISO 13485, for the services related to manufacture of medical devices. This standard relates to risk analysis and management for each translation project in such an important field as health, where a single error could have serious consequences for the user.